The Rise of Fake News (or “Alternative Facts”) on Social Media

By Alexis Long

(Photo Credit)

Is it just me or are there way more fake news articles being shared across Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms? You realized too? Fantastic, let’s discuss it.

I know fake news articles have been around forever and that it isn’t a new thing, but I see at least 15 times more nowadays. I started noticing it around the presidential election and the articles targeted republicans as well as democrats.

The problem is that people are quickly sharing the articles on social media because they want to hear what they want to hear. They don’t care if it’s the truth. If it lines up with their beliefs, they will share the heck out of it. In my opinion, the articles are shared more often that actual news. As journalists, we search for the truth. We don’t want to hear fluff. The false information being shared around makes us look horrible because it looks like we are the ones being dishonest.

Oh, and isn’t it fun when someone takes a satirical article from The Onion way too seriously?

So how do we fix this problem? Honestly, I don’t think we can fix it completely. People are going to continue to write false articles. As I said before, people want to hear what they want to hear. Can we at least figure out how to recognize real news form fake news? Well, sure. It’s literally as simple as checking the source and doing more digging.

If the website’s name is biased (Looking at you, Conservative Tribune), it’s probably not a great place to go if you’re looking for news. Another “news” website to steer clear of is InfoWars, a site managed by Alex Jones. The site claimed that there were millions of illegal votes in the 2016 presidential election and that the Democratic Party hosted a sex slave ring in a pizzeria. Yes, you read that correctly. Jones is also a notorious conspiracy theorist. Also, be careful with News Examiner. The website is known to be a mix of real and fake news.

Did you know there are even websites that are created to mimic actual news sites? You can usually tell if the website is listed with “com.co”. Examples include ABCnews.com.co, DrudgeReport.com.co, usatoday.com.co and washingtonpost.com.co.

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So, next time you’re on Facebook and you see an article titled, “Texas to Pass ‘Name Your Fetus’ Bill” (What in the world, National Report?) and you think you should share it without making sure it’s legit, please don’t.

The truth will set you free.

References:

Davies, D. (2016, December 14). Fake News Expert on How False Stories Spread and Why People Believe Them. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/2016/12/14/505547295/fake-news-expert-on-how-false-stories-spread-and-why-people-believe-them

Dougherty, J. (2016, December 2). The Reality Behind Russia’s Fake News. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/02/politics/russia-fake-news-reality/

Smith, J. (2016, December 15). One in Four Americans Say in Poll They Shared Fake News Online. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-15/one-in-four-americans-say-in-poll-they-shared-fake-news-online

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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism